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Published: July 28th 2012
Upon arriving in London I realized how much the locals drink tea. To fit in with the culture, I not only went to afternoon tea once, but twice, and would do it again if I had more time.
The only thing I knew about afternoon tea was that it is very proper and there are various mini sandwiches and scones served. To prepare for the occasion, I dressed in a more conservative dress just in case others were wearing similar clothing. I was a tad overdressed compared to the others, but in general, high tea was what I expected it to be—formal, yet relaxed. The room at the hotel was very spacious, with white tablecloths neatly hugging all the tables. The waiters calmly stood by and attended to my every need.
The mini tray of sandwiches, scones, and pastries was exactly what I pictured. We also had a wide selection of tea, which was served in individual teapots. I noticed the others in the restaurant drank their tea with little sips, a preconception of mine. The others also talked very quietly, which made me nervous as I continued to clatter my dishes and speak at a louder level. The dignified manner of the locals reinforced my notions of their culture. I always pictured high tea as a very lady-like and proper affair with small bites and calm voices.
I felt that I had to try afternoon tea a second time at a different to place to reinforce the behavior I witnessed the first time. The atmosphere was very similar to the first time in terms of behavior and clothing. Although I felt out of place with my actions like taking larger bites and speaking louder, I felt more immersed in British culture. Traditional afternoon tea is not common in the United States and these two separate occasions helped me understand the British way of life.
From my point of view, I see traditional afternoon tea as a whole science. For example, the sandwiches were served on the bottom of the tray, followed by the scones, then pastries on top. In addition, the waiters at both places took a very long time to serve us and let us enjoy tea for the entire afternoon. Perhaps the Brits need those long afternoons of tea and scones to escape the crowded streets of London!
In sum, I would recommend traditional afternoon tea to others. It is definitely “Top 10” worthy given that it is a great way to immerse oneself in British culture. In my opinion, it is a bucket list experience for London given that it is simply fun, but also unique compared to the United States. I have researched having afternoon tea in the United States and found very little. Just remember to bring your manners!<!--EndFragment-->
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